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TIe H¸Ivid· A Convevsalion vilI Mavgavila Zives, Ba¸nundo Miev, and MaIeI Ficcini

AulIov|s)· Néslov Oavcía CancIini, Mavgavila Zives, Ba¸nundo Miev, MaIeI Ficcini
Souvce· Ioundav¸ 2, VoI. 20, No. 3, TIe Foslnodevnisn BeIale in Lalin Anevica |Aulunn,
1993), pp. 77-92
FuIIisIed I¸· Duke University Press
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The
Hybrid:
A Conversation with
Margarita Zires, Raymundo Mier,
and Mabel Piccini
Nestor Garcia Canclini
Mier: I would like to introduce the notion of the
hybrid,
so
very important,
it
seems to
me,
in N6stor's book.' The notion of the
hybrid suggests
to
me,
perhaps
because of
my complete ignorance
of
biology,
a frontier
species,
a
happening,
the sudden
eruption
of a
morphology
still without a well-
established
place
in the taxonomies. The entrance of the
hybrid
into tax-
onomy
necessitates the abandonment of this
category
in favor of
another,
less
drastic, one,
which
might
be the
variant, species,
et cetera. The
hybrid
designates
a
liminality,
a material whose existence exhibits the dual affir-
mation of a substance and its lack of
identity,
that which is in the
interstices,
which
profiles
itself in a zone of
shadow, which
escapes,
at least in
appear-
ance, repetition.
The
hybrid
is the name of a material without
identity,
of
an evanescent condition. The
hybrid
could then be a
very
fortunate name
because of the
density
of its evocations of the
singular,
of an event. In this
This is an extract from a
longer
text that
appeared
as
"Figuraciones:
Las culturas
y
politicas
de la modernidad," Version 1
(October 1991):
11-42.
1. N6stor Garcia
Canclini, Culturas hibridas:
Estrategias para
entrar
y
salir de la moder-
nidad (Mexico,
D.
F.: Grijalbo, 1990).
boundary
2 20:3, 1993.
Copyright
?
1993
by
Duke
University
Press. CCC 0190-3659/93/$1.50.
78
boundary
2 / Fall 1993
marginality
with
regard
to
taxonomies,
the
hybrid permits only
an
oblique
analysis,
a zone of
effects,
of detachments. It can be
understood,
but
only
through
the traces of its
anticipated
or confirmed
disappearance, through
the modalities of its
hardening.
To
me,
the idea of
hybrid cultures, then,
seems
extraordinarily sug-
gestive,
because it
permits
the
imagination
of social
morphologies,
fields
of
singularized regularity, designations
of
catastrophe,
but a
catastrophe
that is not a
limiting border,
a mere
point
of
singularity,
the
space
of a frac-
ture.
Hybrid
culture does not
designate
a
void,
a
fissure,
in the
process
of
transition,
rather the
very
material of a
culture,
of its
vitality
and its force
of
singularized
and
dissipated
invention. In this
way, however,
it confronts
us with a
challenge.
How do we
analyze
this dense, interstitial "material"
of a liminal culture if its
meanings appear only
in order to
anticipate
its
disappearance
as
such,
its
precipitation
toward more stable
orderings
of
meaning?
It seems to me that this
proposal
of
hybrid
cultures is a method-
ological challenge
in all fields of culture.
Specifically,
the
adjective hybrid,
referring
to culture, pushed
to its
extremes,
seems to
put
the
very concept
of culture into interdiction.
Zires: In relation to the
point you raise, Raymundo,
I believe it's
important
to recall the notion of culture until now in effect within
anthropology
and
sociology
and that has also
penetrated
other
fields,
such as communica-
tions. This notion of culture is tied to the idea of
homogeneous
nuclei of
more or less coherent beliefs, products,
or social behaviors
pertaining
to
a
community, group,
or nation.
Homogeneity
is
emphasized,
coherence is
emphasized,
and with them the
possibility
of classification.
Now,
in
your book, N6stor, you speak
about
hybrid cultures,
which
leads us to think about a different notion of culture.
According
to this
notion,
culture would not have the coherence that has been attributed to it,
nor
would it refer to a static
body
of
products
or
specific
cultural elements,
but
rather to
processes
of the interrelation of discursive elements that have mul-
tiple forms, genres,
or formats and that are in
permanent
transformation.
This interrelation,
I
believe,
would
always
be
fragmentary.
It would
put
into
question
the
homogeneous
character of the
operative conception
of culture
and its
implicit
notion of
identity
as an immovable nucleus.
On the other hand,
the
hybrid
refers us to
something
that
belongs
to different areas at the same
time, and,
in this sense,
I believe that what
is
hybrid
cannot have a
permanent identity.
I think
it's important
to
point
out that the
processes
of
hybridization
are not a new
phenomenon-they
have always existed and are always going to exist in societies in
general,
Garcia Canclini / The
Hybrid:
A Conversation 79
although they
have been called other names. For
example,
in Mexico, much
has been said about how the Aztecs assimilated the
religion
and culture
of the
peoples they
came to dominate in the
pre-Hispanic age. Many
have
documented the
process
of
religious
and cultural
syncretism
that was
pro-
duced later
during
the time of colonization. Some authors who have studied
the
processes
of
syncretism
as forms of
hybridization
have
pointed
out the
way
in which cultural and
political
identities are
put
in
jeopardy
in these
processes.
But these
examples
shouldn't lead us to think that it's
only during
periods
of the domination of one
people
over another that
processes
of
hybridization exist, especially
if we consider this
phenomenon
from the
per-
spective
of
intertextuality.
In this
sense,
we would have to ask whether all
culture is not
simply
a
hybrid amalgam and,
in that
case,
we would have to
argue
that there are no cultures that are not
hybrid.
What we can
point
out with
regard
to the
present situation,
which
you
allude to in
your book, N6stor,
is that we are
witnessing
a
particular
process
of
hybridization
in
contemporary
societies in which communication
technologies play
a
very important
role.
Canclini: I detect two different movements in what
Raymundo
and Mar-
garita
are
saying.
If I understand
Raymundo's concern,
it would follow that
the
hybrid
is the
indeterminate, something
that is
constantly changing,
while
Margarita spoke
of
processes
of
hybridization,
in which the
hybrid
becomes
formalized. For
me,
the
hybrid
is almost never
indeterminate,
it does not
present itself,
even in
contemporary societies, by degrees
of
indeterminacy,
although
cultural
crossings
have become much more intense
recently,
and
I find in this intensification one of the
explanations
for the
collapse
of
para-
digms
and the
difficulty
of
grasping meaning.
The
hybrid
is almost never
something
indeterminate because there are different historical forms of
hy-
bridization.
I tried to work out the
following problem
in the book: How have com-
binations of
pre-Columbian
and colonial traditions with the
processes
of
modernization
historically
arisen in Latin America? I find historical
logics
that
organize
the successive
hybridizations.
Even the artistic
avant-gardes,
which were accused of
being disintegrative,
can be read as searches for
modernization; they
involve
ways
of
assuming
local
traditions,
of under-
standing
the folklore of a
country,
of
asking
oneself what can be done with
the
heterogeneity
of Latin American societies. In a similar
way,
the
princi-
pal cultural
configurations identified
in
modernity-high, popular, and mass
culture-are the result, as are their
crossings, of processes of hybridization
80
boundary
2 / Fall 1993
that occur in conditions
partially predetermined by
social
systems.
For ex-
ample,
modern art can
incorporate
both artisanal
objects
and
television,
but
these
objects,
which until
recently
were seen as
strange
and which
many
criticized when
they appeared
in museums of modern
art,
are received
by
a
certain
logic,
a
grammar.
The museum
gives
them a defined
space
that sub-
ordinates them to a
history
of art and
perception,
that
organizes
intercultural
hybridizations.
The same occurs when our record collection combines
salsa, rock,
classical
music, ranchera,
et cetera-all that we
habitually do,
in
fact,
com-
bine in a
personal
collection. But this doesn't mean it is
entirely
random.
Even
though
we
may
want to
buy
this
variety
of
records,
we know that
not all of them are sold in the same
place,
that there are classifications
for these
goods,
that some are for
listening
with some friends and others
with different ones in different social situations. There are no
entirely
arbi-
trary crossings,
and often we ourselves construct the
system
that contains
them. There are artists who
deliberately
choose to
belong
at once to
high,
popular,
and mass culture circuits. In the structure and
composition
of the
messages,
a
type
or
style
is
especially
underlined or marked. It's
possible
to mix salsa and
baroque music,
but at the same time to mark the
predomi-
nance of a
category,
that of
rock, jazz,
or classical music,
at times
according
to the venue in which the music is
going
to be
played:
in the Palace of Fine
Arts or at a rock concert,
for
example.
I
agree
with what
you
were
saying, Margarita,
that
objects belong
to different fields;
I would also
say
that as
subjects,
we
belong
to different
areas and we
enjoy
cultural and artistic
goods
in different
spaces-we
can
relate them
fluidly
with different
genres.
To be a resident in a
big city
at
the end of the
century implies being
able to relate oneself to varied fields,
simultaneously
to
high, popular,
and mass cultural levels. It
implies listening
to Zabludova on television, going
to the folk concerts of the
Nezahuac6yotl,
going
to a rock concert,
and
dancing
to salsa in California: All of these
frag-
mentary experiences
coexist in an urban resident,
but
they
are not
totally
arbitrary.
This
fragmentation
is
regulated
in
part by objective
social
systems
and in
part by
rituals established
by subjects
themselves. The rituals serve
to
classify
the real,
to establish a before and after,
to establish
procedures
of
passage
from one situation to another. In the middle of the
crossings
and
hybridization, they
establish
separate
fields that can be connected but
that are not
totally
mixed
up.
We need rituals because we do not tolerate
excessive
hybridization.
Certain antiauthoritarian philosophical positions tend to see rituals
Garcia Canclini / The
Hybrid:
A Conversation 81
only
as forms of
discipline
and
repression,
but the
persistence
of rituals in
contemporary
societies can also be
interpreted
to mean that as
subjects
we can't live in
permanent
indetermination and
transgression.
In order to
perceive
the
complexity
of the real and to
accept
it as
people
do in fact
experience it,
we should take into account that
people
live a
great
deal of
time in the midst of
rituals,
that
they
need forms of classification of the real.
That is
why
we don't understand the
hybrid
if we
only
look at it as
complete
dissemination,
rather than as
something
that is also
ordered,
that is
experi-
enced as classified or as in need of classification in order to contain the
dissolution of the
signifieds.
Zires: Yes, Nestor,
but rituals are tied not
only
to
systems
of
ordering
but
also to forms of
breaking
such
systems,
to the transformation of classifica-
tions.
Canclini:
Yes,
but insofar as
they
are
ordering rituals, they
also
incorporate
the
possibility
of social
transgression.
Bourdieu
says
that there are rituals
that involve the
simple reproduction
of the
social,
that are tied to the most
natural activities of life
(birth, marriage, death),
and that there are rituals that
have to do with the institutionalization of
transgression: Through these,
it is
accepted
that
transgression
exists. Rituals
institutionalizing transgression
tend to occur in a
marginal context,
for
example, carnival,
but
although
it is
possible
to cross-dress in carnival
(so
that men
may
be
women,
or women
men,
or the
poor rich),
all of this has limits; they
are restricted
transgressions
that have a defined
period
in which
symbolic efficacy
can be exercised.
When
they
seek to reach a real
efficacy,
then
repression appears.
Mier: I would like to turn to the
question
of the incidence of this reflection
on the
hybrid
in the
political
field. In
fact,
to
me,
the notion of
hybrid
culture
poses
the
problem
of how
political strategies
arise as moments of
significa-
tion,
as
precarious regimes
of confrontation between
systems
of discourse.
The
very
notion of
power,
of
strategy,
would
appear intimately
tied to this
appearance
of
hybrid regularities
in the construction of
signification.
And
this,
I
believe,
also
leads, perhaps,
to another
problem
that is
very
evi-
dent in
everyday
discourse: the
perception
of
cultural, social,
and
political
processes
as
being
in crisis. The notion of crisis seems to offer another
matrix, to unfold an
analogous,
but
divergent,
face of the notion of the
hybrid
and its resonances with
political strategies
and discursive tensions. Per-
haps
it would be
interesting
to introduce an element of differentiation: Crisis
appears as a "scene" in different senses of that word. In this scenic dimen-
82
boundary
2 / Fall 1993
sion,
the notion of crisis would have its
support
in an "effect of
meaning"
caused
by
certain conditions of culture in the
perception
of a
subject.
This
has to do with the
perception
of a
vacuum,
of a substantial fracture in the
order of
experience
and of the imminence of the dissolution of that
order,
of its
collapse.
This notion of crisis refers me to crucial
question,
in
spite
of
its
apparent
distance from Latin American
political
conditions. What is the
condition-the
political, strategic
condition-of the
subject?
What are the
resources for the re-creation of the
meaning
of a
subject
in a liminal cul-
ture whose
orderings, processes
of
exchange,
and
regimes
of
reciprocities
and solidarities find themselves submitted to mobile tensions and incessant
transitions,
and that therefore also offer mobile and varied
"scenographies"
in
permanent
abandon?
I would like to
expand
a little more on this
question
of the
subject
and its
experience
of dissolution of solidarities in societies in
disintegra-
tion,
in
contrast,
if there is
one,
to the
subject
and its
experience
of cultural
hybridization.
If crisis and
hybridization
are two moments with
antagonistic
political polarities,
is there a
fragile
tension in this dualism that
prevents
the
catastrophic passage
from one to the other? Do
hybrid
cultures construct
the order of their own scenification,
the scenification of their
provisional
sta-
bility,
of
changing
modalities of life under other forms of
representation,
of
"perceptible" deployment?
This dualism between crisis and
hybridization,
to
me,
seems to be at the center of a relevant
political question.
It is said
that in conditions of the collective
perception
of crisis,
there is an exacer-
bation of conservatism. The
uncertainty
and the
anxiety experienced by
the
political
classes and
subjects
in
tension,
faced with the vacuum of the
dissolution of the networks of
solidarity
and
symbolic exchange, provoke
a return,
a
relapse
to the most
rigid
and authoritarian
regimes, including
despotic
and fascist ones,
which
preceded
the crisis or which lie buried as
potential regimes
in weakened institutions. The dualism of crisis and
hy-
bridization would seem to
suggest,
as I
pointed
out before,
two
divergent
outcomes for diverse collective
subjects:
a tension between the restoration
of
disciplinary
fields or a
relapse
to more
harshly
instituted
systems
that
encourage
ultraradical movements that are
inevitably conservative,
on the
one hand,
and the invention of new fields marked as mobile,
destined for
greater flexibility,
on the other. This second outcome is
perhaps impossible,
but the
image
of
hybridization appears
at least to
suggest
it.
Piccini: Radicals are conservative of what? Could
you please explain
this
a bit more?
Garcia Canclini / The
Hybrid:
A Conversation 83
Mier: Conservative in the sense that radical movements tend to resolve the
perceived
tensions
by struggling
for
regimes
of maximum
stability.
Piccini: I would like to add
something
to the
already complex panorama
of
hybrid
cultures in the
present reorganization
of cultural
spaces. Now,
Raymundo
introduces the idea that there
might
be
hybrid subjects
located
in certain
planes
of interstitial character. I wonder whether these
figures
arise on the
contemporary
scene as the result of the
philosophies
called
postmodern-that is,
do
they
become visible
just
because of a
particular
theoretical
focus,
or are
they
also constitutive features of the cultural scene
at the end of the millennium? I have the
impression
that these
hybridiza-
tions are characteristic of
any
cultural
process
in
any
historical
period
and
that it
is,
above
all,
a theoretical
perspective
that
permits
us to
distinguish
the mixtures of
cultures,
of
symbolic forms,
or the
processes
of intertextu-
ality.
I
agree,
of
course,
that there is another factor that facilitates the full
visibility
of these new
anthropological landscapes;
I believe that the new
audiovisual
techniques intensify
these
processes-they
confer
upon
them
a new
certainty
at the same time that
they permit
us to
distinguish,
in a
different
way,
the
recomposition, articulation,
and disarticulation of the cul-
tural
fields, the
migration
of
symbolic meanings
and forms from one field to
another,
from one
message
to
another,
in the
signifying
chains.
Now,
in the
particular,
I'm interested in
taking up
the characteristi-
cally political aspects
of the modern
reorganization
of cultural
spaces,
the
new ties that are established between
political systems
and
symbolic pro-
cesses. In
N6stor's book,
there is an
attempt
at
explaining
the
particular
efficacy
that neoconservative
policies
have
acquired
in our
countries,
an
efficacy
that has a
special
relevance to the
topic
of
hybrid
cultures and the
new
subjects
of
hybridization.
I'm interested in a discussion about these
things, especially
because it's
recently
become
intellectually
fashionable to
emphasize
the so-called forms of resistance of the
popular
sectors in the
face of mass media
messages,
or the
variety
of
"readings"
social
groups
can make of
something,
or the need to de-center the idea of a
"verticality
of
power"
in relation to new cultural
technologies
and
political practices.
No
doubt these
positions opened
new
paths
for
understanding
the cultural life
of
groups
and classes in our countries and also for
reposing
the
problem
of social conflicts and domination. But I feel it's
necessary
to
remember,
just
in case we
forgot,
that
along
with the new
utopias
of
democracy,
we
are
witnessing
new forms of
domination, and that domination is central in
order to understand the behavior of our political systems and the exercise
84
boundary
2 / Fall 1993
of cultural
power.
With
respect
to
this, Nestor introduces an idea that is of
great
interest to me: the idea of
"oblique powers"
as a notion that serves to
analyze
the new exercise of social controls
coming
from the
hybridization
of cultures.
If the new rituals
reorganize
chaos
by establishing
certain kinds of
social
pacts
between the members of a
group
or
community;
if
they
seek to
establish new relations of
complicity
between the citizens and the
govern-
ment
(which
are now
called, as in
early sociology,
relations of
solidarity) just
at the
very
moment when our societies are
making possible,
with the new
projects
of economic and
political modernization,
the ideal of an informed
community,
I wonder: What is the basis for the success of neoconservative
politics?
What relation do these
policies
have to the
reorganization
of the
cultural field? What are the
"oblique powers"?
What are the new
techniques
for
recruiting
wide sectors of
society?
There is much talk in current social
theory
of the
appearance
of a
new individualism in modern democracies. The rhetoric of the individual at
the end of the twentieth
century
is
certainly
not the one we inherited from
the nineteenth
century.
We have to
recognize
that the new forms of retreat
into
private
life and the
consequent
defense of "individual liberties" and the
"consumer society"
manifest a cultural transformation of
major proportions
and a substantive
reorganization
of
rituals, symbolic forms,
and social and
political disciplines.
In these
changes,
I believe that the
development
of
communication
technologies,
and the
power
that these networks have to
diagram
new forms of
daily life, occupies
a central
place:
In the
majority
of
cases, they
involve domestic "terminals,"
networks that define the
space
of the
family
as the
place
of encounter with the new
symbolic
forms of
modernity.
I'm interested in
reconsidering
all these
things, situating
the emer-
gence
of
hybrid cultures,
the
generalized syncretisms,
the
technologies
of
domestic
seclusion,
the
simultaneity
of information and of cultural contacts
in the frame of the new
systems
of control and domination in our societies.
Canclini: For
me,
what has
given up
the
ghost
is much clearer than the kind
of
society
we are
entering.
In order to understand what has
happened,
I
believe that we have to address
centrally
the transformations of
symbolic
markets or cultural structures.
Lamentably,
this is still almost
always
absent
in
analyses.
For
example,
when one
speaks
about the loss of the
credibility
of
political parties
and of the low
representativity
of
politicians,
one alludes
to matters like corruption and verticalism. No doubt, these must be taken
Garcia Canclini / The
Hybrid:
A Conversation 85
into
account,
but it seems to me that there are
changes
in the sociocultural
structure of
society
that
explain why
certain forms of the
development
of
domination or
hegemony
have entered into crisis and are
being replaced
by
others.
I see one of the
symptoms
of this
senility
in the loss of
pertinence
of
the traditional versus the modern distinction,
or of the divisions
among
the
institutional
apparatuses
dedicated to
high, popular,
and mass culture. In
Mexico,
there is the INBA [National Institute of Fine
Arts],
which concerns
itself with the fine
arts;
then there are the
organisms
of
popular culture,
dedicated to
indigenous
education or the cultural
promotion
of ethnic and
popular groups;
and
finally,
there is a communicational
apparatus, gen-
erally
in the hands of
private companies,
but that still
occupies
a certain
place
in the
political system.
These three
scenarios,
or these three kinds of
apparatuses,
have been
moving
in different directions since the forties in
Mexico.
In the
postrevolutionary period,
cultural
policies
aimed at some kind
of
integration
of
high culture, popular culture,
and mass culture: This is what
occurred with the Vasconcelist or Cardenist
policies
for the
appropriation
of
popular
culture. On the one
hand, they incorporated popular
culture in
education, the
murals,
and the
great monuments;
on the other
hand, they
promoted
the
popularization
of elite international culture in the schools and
in
popular
and worker collectives. These
attempts
at
integration,
or recon-
ciliation,
under a national
patrimony
of the learned and the
popular, began
to weaken with Alemanismo. In 1947 and
1948,
the National
Indigenist
Institute
and the Institute of Fine Arts were
created, along
with a series of
institutions that
fragmented
and
segmented
cultural
development.
This
seg-
mentation in Mexico resembled what
happens
in
nearly
all nations where
high, popular,
and mass cultural levels are
separated. Through
various
pro-
cesses,
which I
analyze
in the
book, however, this
tri-partition
of the cultural
sphere practically
does not exist
anymore.
It was
always artificial,
but
now,
due to
crossings
in which each of the
systems appropriates
elements of
others,
there is a fluid interconnection. This is
recognized by
the cultural
organisms
themselves when their most innovative leaders talk about how
fine arts should
appear
on television or how
popular
culture benefits from the
development
of fine arts.
Nevertheless, there are no institutional structures
capable
of
grasping
the
hybridism
of this intercultural
reality.
These kinds
of
phenomena
demonstrate the
confinement, the
exhaustion,
of a
style
of
compartmentalization
of state
apparatuses
and
political conceptions
with
regard to culture.
86
boundary
2 / Fall 1993
Perhaps
there is another
newer, and more
radical, issue
here,
though.
I'm
referring
to the decline of the communicative
strategies
of tra-
ditional
politics
that have been centered in the written culture. Even those
who seek to
represent
the
popular sectors,
such as the
parties
of the
Left,
still have a
Gutenbergian conception:
lots of
books, lots of
pamphlets,
but
an almost unanimous
inability
to intervene in the cultural industries. Neither
the state nor the
opposition parties
have
developed
alternative
policies
appropriate
to the
rapid development
of the cultural industries. What has
happened
is that the most
imaginative private companies,
with a
high
de-
pendence
on models from the United
States,
have
expanded radio,
tele-
vision,
and other cultural industries.
They
have
occupied
a communicative
space
that is now
clearly hegemonic,
as much for the number of
people
it reaches as for the kinds of effects it has on communication structures
and social
organization.
It seems to me that we're
barely beginning
to take
account of the
displacement
of the state as well as the
opposition parties
and other traditional forms of
doing politics,
such as unions, by
this cultural
reorganization.
A
key
to this loss of
credibility,
of
influence,
of the summon-
ing capacity
of traditional
political actors,
is found in their
inability
to insert
themselves into the
present
structures of communication. To
promote
left-
ist, progressive,
or
popular politics
this late in the twentieth
century requires
the elaboration of
absolutely
different communicative
strategies.
I see
only
small and
beginning steps
in this direction in some
experiences
of the Bra-
zilian PT
[Workers Party],
which has done
interesting
work on radio and
television,
or the Vote-NO
campaign against
Pinochet in
Chile,
where the
opposition
used
advertising
and
mass-marketing techniques
with
very good
results. Aside from
this,
I find that what almost
always happens
when the
intellectuals or
"progressives" try
to use the cultural industries
is,
as Fatima
Fernandez said not
long ago,
that instead of
making
cultural television,
we make televised culture; instead of
making political communication,
we
transfer structures of
political thought
and communication that were formed
in
print
culture to the mass media.
Thus,
from the
start,
we
place
ourselves
in a situation of ineffectiveness,
of
inability
to intervene in those
systems.
There is another,
more
complicated
issue. I'm
thinking
about the
new kinds of mechanisms that these communicative
restructurings
have
created. A little while
ago,
I read a book
by
Paul Virilio that
speaks
about
different
stages
in the
development
of war. It refers to modern war as a basi-
cally
communicative war,
where
performance
takes
place
at
long-distance
and where there is
practically
no intervention
through
land attacks. In the
Gulf War, there was performance
at a distance by the bombardiers, guided
Garcia Canclini / The
Hybrid:
A Conversation 87
by computer systems,
and there were
practically
no
body-to-body
conflicts
as in traditional wars. This
performance
at a
distance, through
communica-
tive
exchanges
and the
consequent
concealment of what is
taking place
in
these
very
concentrated communicative
spaces, represents
a new contem-
porary development
with a
high
concentration of communicative
powers
in
the hands of
specialists
with a
very high technological background,
who in
turn
accompany
their
performance (I deliberately say performance
instead
of
action)
with mechanisms of simulation of informational democratization
and the
possibilities
of
participation.
When we read the
newspaper
or watch
television, which,
to a
great degree,
involves
operations
of
simulacra, we
are confronted with this tension between the most radical concentration of
information and communication that has existed in
history
and the simula-
tion that the new
technologies permit
the realization of an
amply
extended
participation by
the
public.
This is the
reorganization
we are
asking
our-
selves about.
Zires: I believe that what
you're saying, N6stor,
also
yields
a new
perspec-
tive on the
political problematic
of culture in the
present
situation. You
began
by speaking
about some initiatives of
political parties
of the Left to insert
themselves in the
contemporary political-cultural processes,
and
you
men-
tioned the
problems
that
they
have had
relocating
themselves in a new
cultural context. I would like to connect this with
something you point
out
in
your
book that seems
very interesting
to me. You
say
there that we are
witnessing
a
reordering
of the
public
and the
private spheres,
the creation
of a new urban culture
that,
we could
say,
is
expanding rapidly
in contem-
porary
societies in Latin
America, and a new role within these societies for
communications
technologies.
All of this modifies the
political-cultural
order
so that the
parties
don't know how to insert themselves in it
anymore,
which
is
due,
I
believe,
to a too-narrow
conception
of
power politics,
as well as of
the field of communication and culture.
On the other
hand,
it seems to me that we can learn from what is
going
on now: the war in the Persian Gulf. Here is
something
that calls our
attention to cultural
politics, or, better
yet,
the
present
communicative
poli-
tics. Until
now,
the media has tried to
represent
the defeat of socialism or
the
breakup
of the socialist bloc as the
victory
of
democracy
and
implicitly
as the
victory
of the North American
system. Recently,
we witnessed an
apparent
act of
spectacular
information
democracy,
which could be better
classified as an invasion of
images by CNN, the
company
that has most
concentrated the power of information in this communicative war, as you
88
boundary
2 / Fall 1993
were
pointing
out. Now
then, this invasion of
images
that has been so over-
whelming
leads me to wonder whether it has not also
provoked people
to
begin
to doubt
precisely
the simulacrum of information
democracy
and
par-
ticipation
in current communication. For
me,
the
protests against
the war
suggest
this last
possibility.
Mier: I wonder if the idea of
credibility
isn't itself at a
crossroads,
if we
aren't
seeing
a transformation in the modalities of the construction of truth.
I'm
going
to venture what
may
seem like a
peculiar hypothesis:
I wonder if
the
contemporary systems
for the institutional
production
of
knowledge,
in-
stead of
improving
the relation between
knowledge
and ethics
or,
in Haber-
mas's words, between conditions of truth and
truthfulness,
which
previously
seemed more
clear,
have
produced, rather,
a
separation
of these. The ethi-
cal force of truth has
completely dissipated,
as has the
cognitive capacity
of ethics. The
knowledge produced by specialized
institutions has ceased
to be an ethical
problem
in itself. There is
only
a
problem
with
regard
to
its
instrumentality,
its
practical
dimension. This unarticulated
duality
of the
dimensions of truth and truthfulness seems to
project
itself into the
political
sphere, particularly
if we consider the
contemporary
modalities of the
politi-
cal
representativity
that is at the base of the terrible bureaucratization of the
machinery
of
government.
The
problem
of
political representativity
used to
constitute,
we could
say,
a
modality
of articulation between the collective
regimes
of the social construction of truth and those of truthfulness. In our
enormous
government
bureaucracies,
this no
longer
has
any meaning.
The basis of
political strategy
seems to be
drastically
modified. If I
know that the
representative
of
my
district not
only
does not
represent
me
but that he or she
absolutely ignores my existence,
and that this condi-
tion is irreversible,
which is as true for
public
administration as for cultural
politics,
there is no ethical
reflexivity
in the conditions of
representation.
A
phenomenon pointed
out in much current social
thought
is accentuated and
disseminated: the
political efficacy
of
specularity-politics
as
spectacle,
life
as
spectacle, including
the
paradox
of
privacy
as
spectacle,
the
publicity
of the
private,
the
secrecy
of the residues of the
public
in the
private.
The
exploitation
of
visibility
as a rhetoric that influences the
patterns
of cultural
production
seems to be
becoming
more
frequent,
a rhetorical
primacy
of
visibility supported by
the
artificiality
of the dualism between truth and truth-
fulness. Artistic
production
is
completely
inscribed in this
logic,
sometimes
in order to sustain it, sometimes in order to
degrade
its
efficacy.
Aesthetics
gets
mixed up with this process
that compromises ethics and truth in order
to dissolve, it seems to me, its own equivocal position
in our societies.
Garcia Canclini / The
Hybrid:
A Conversation 89
Piccini: I'd like to add
something
with
respect
to the
emergence
of a new
aesthetic of war and the
weight
of the audiovisual cultures and information
on aesthetics and ethics in our societies. There is no doubt that we are
witnessing
the maximum concentration of cultural
powers, understanding
by
this the concentration of electronic circuits and
effects;
with
this,
we are
witnessing,
at the same
time,
the maximum
expansion
of the visible real or
of the
visibility
of the real. I believe that this is a
problem
of some
impor-
tance and that it
opens
the
way
to other
problems
in the fields of culture
and cultural
politics.
As we all
know,
the forces of the Left in different coun-
tries of the
continent,
those
represented by
movements or
parties
as well
as those active in intellectual
work, engaged
in a
prolonged
battle for what
was then
called,
under the
aegis
of the United
Nations,
a New
International
Information Order.
(I
hesitate to recall here that Bush
anticipates
with the
end of the Persian Gulf War the
appearance
of a New World
Order.)
That
battle to balance the
weight
of those who did the
informing
with the
right
to information of the
"underdeveloped" peoples
and to see to the
equitable
distribution of communication resources
proved
to
be,
as we all
know, yet
another failure of the
many struggles waged
to defend the
right
of the
op-
pressed
to
speak,
to
opinion,
or
simply,
as the constitution
guarantees,
to
the free
expression
of ideas.
I believe that one of the reasons for the failure can now be seen
clearly.
I'll
discard,
for the
moment,
a structural
analysis
of our
countries,
which would show how
they
lack the
political
and economic conditions to
make "the
right
to information" a
reality
due to the absence of real democ-
racy,
the constant abuse of
power,
the concentration of
wealth,
and the
increasing marginalization
of vast sectors of the
population.
I want to
stress,
beyond
these conditions that define the
projects
for "the modernization of
backwardness," as someone has called them
appropriately,
other
aspects
of the new
paradoxical logics
of the audiovisual cultures. The electronic con-
centration has
produced, against
all
expectations,
the most
complete
ex-
perience
of information ever recorded. Societies were never so "informed"
as
they currently
are. It is then
necessary
to ask how this information is
given,
what are the new forms of
censorship,
institutional and
rhetorical,
that act to reduce the visible real
through political manipulation,
or what
is more
complicated, through
a
specific take,
that
is, through
the
typical
technical
conditionings
the camera allows. What is certain is that we live in
overinformed societies in which it is difficult even to
disqualify,
as we used
to do
routinely,
the control of news
by private corporations.
Such control
exists, but in the present conditions of electronic expansion and of the rules
of communicative
exchange that this expansion and its networks
prefigure,
I
90
boundary
2 / Fall 1993
wonder how a
politics
of the "redistribution" of the audiovisual
space
could
be
imagined?
What would it
mean,
in these
regimes
that
place "everything"
before our
eyes
and that even
change
wars of destruction into an aesthetic
sign,
to conceive of the "democratization of culture" or of
dialogue
between
social
groups.
I believe that the situation is
very complex.
Canclini: I'd like to note a
slight discrepancy
with what
Raymundo
was
say-
ing. Although
the
general
line of his
analysis
is
very good, especially
on the
question
of the differentiation of
transparency
and
visibility,
which I find to
be
very pertinent,
there
persist
in Latin
America,
and
notoriously
in
Mexico,
forms of cultural
development
that we can call traditional for which the dis-
tinction between truth and truthfulness continues to be
very important.
The
concern that
political parties
should
represent
us continues to be
signifi-
cant,
and I think that the case of the PRD
[the
leftist electoral coalition built
around Cuauhtemoc
Cardenas]
in Mexico is an
example
of that. One could,
from a
postmodern perspective,
view with amazement the fact that the dis-
pute
over electoral fraud still continues to be located at the center of the
political struggle,
but in fact this is what
happens
and
probably
will con-
tinue to
happen
for a
long
time in Mexico. For the
peasants,
and even for
urban sectors,
in Michoacan or
Guerrero,
who have been
taking
over the
municipal
offices and
mounting very energetic political
actions in defense
of an electoral result that
they
want to coincide with the
truth,
with
reality,
to
belong
to the
category
of
truth,
it seems to me that certain
parameters
of
the
epistemology
of traditional
politics
continue to be in effect.
I want to insist on this in order to avoid the risk of
substituting
the
modern with the
postmodern
or the traditional with the modern. We live in
a
complex
situation in which different
temporalities
coexist and in
which,
for
vast sectors of the Mexican
population,
these
problems
of
truth,
truthful-
ness, transparency,
and so
on,
continue to be of the utmost
importance.
This
does not mean that even these "traditional"
processes
cannot be studied
in terms of a
theory
of
verisimilitude,
with a
degree
of
problematization
that
does not
correspond
with the
precise political
articulation the local actors
make of them. But in
any case, given
the
persistence
and the central
place
of the
political struggle
in
Mexico, they
are modern,
and even
postmod-
ern, processes,
so I believe we need to be careful with these
problems
of
political theory,
like
representativity
and
credibility.
This situates us not
only
before the coexistence of various histori-
cal
temporalities,
but before
problems
of scale that we still don't know how
to confront
very
well. What is visible as a
political
fact for the
peasants
of
Michoacan, so that they take over the mayor's office and demand that in
Garcia Canclini / The
Hybrid:
A Conversation 91
their town of two thousand inhabitants the electoral results be
respected,
has
apparently very
little to do with the war in the Persian Gulf or with the
big
decisions of the Mexican
government concerning
the Free Trade
Agree-
ment with the United States and Canada.
Nevertheless,
one could think
that,
on
very
different
levels,
these facts are interconnected. And this is not
simply
a matter of
articulating
different levels of
politics
but rather of
seeing
at each level how the conditions of social action are
governed by
different
dynamics
and
logics.
Mier: N6stor's observation is
very interesting.
The democracies N6stor is
speaking
about are reminiscences of other
systems.
I don't know whether
to call them reminiscences or
hybrid
cultures. It's
difficult, however, to call
these
complex systems
of
reciprocity
and collective actions democracies.
The sit-ins and demonstrations in Michoacan to
protest
the election results
conflict with the canonical
representations
of what has become the almost
cinematographic parliamentarianism
of the Western
democracies,
such as
the United
States, Germany,
and France.
Compared
to
these,
local
pro-
cesses of collective
action,
such as the
sit-ins,
seem like violence
bordering
on barbarism.
Maybe
what we're
seeing
is the exercise of
political practices
arising
out of the tensions of
hybridization
in our
decidedly heterogeneous
cultures. One could
speak
of the
displacement
of the notion of
democracy
toward direct
action,
toward the
assumption
of a collective
responsibility
for
innovation or normative
reproduction,
and an
abrogation
of
specularity
as
a means of
political
control.
Zires:
Considering everything
that's been
said,
I think that it's a
question
of
the coexistence of different
political logics, logics
of
representativity along
with the
logic
of the
spectacle.
I believe that this is
happening
not
only
in
Mexico and Latin America but also in the so-called modern democracies
such as those in
Europe.
I'm
thinking
about
Spain,
for
example. Today,
I
read in the
paper
that a new
Spanish newspaper
has been
established,
whose main
purpose
is to counteract the dominant media slant on the Gulf
War and to contribute to
peace.
Side
by
side with this
phenomenon,
we see
protests
all over the world
against
the war and
against
the
present
informa-
tion
system.
For
me, these
protests
demonstrate a series of contradictions
between the
respective logics
of
visibility
and
truth, of
spectacle
and infor-
mational
representativity. Despite
the
great visibility
of the
war, despite
the
enormous
quantity
of information about what is
taking place
in the
Gulf,
the
people are
rebelling, or rather, because of this they're rebelling. On the one
hand, there are pacifist interests of certain sectors of the population that do
92
boundary
2 / Fall 1993
not see themselves
being
listened to or
represented by
the media chains.
On the other hand,
the
logic
of
spectacle
and
hyperrealism
is
functioning
so
perfectly
or has arrived at such an extreme that it
goes beyond
the notion
of the visible
generally accepted by
the
public, by
the
spectator,
so that he
or she
rejects
it and then
applies
the
logic
of truth and
representativity.
I believe that this also deserves to be examined with more care. It
is clear that the
way
in which information is
interpreted
in the case of the
war,
as well as in other
situations,
is not
homogeneous.
The
way
in which
the
logics
of verisimilitude and truth interact varies in different social
groups
and in different social contexts.
Piccini: I'd like to
synthesize
a little of what we've been
saying.
I continue
with
my
obsessions.
Something
that seems central to me is the increase in
the volume of information and disinformation
people experience every day.
A little while
ago,
some friends were
telling
me
that, confused
by
the news
reports
of the Gulf War
they
were
watching
on television or
reading
in the
national
newspapers, they
decided to
buy
some
European newspapers
in
order to
get
a better
picture
of what was
going
on. The
surprising thing
was
that this new
supply
of
reports
and facts didn't
help
them understand the
conflict or its
underlying
causes
any better, beyond
the
generalities
about it
we all share to one
degree
or another. It seems that we are
undergoing
a
serious crisis of the
comprehension
of
reality-or
that
reality
itself has be-
come
particularly complex-and
also a crisis of belief. I understand that this
is a
general phenomenon
in Western countries that
doubtlessly
becomes
more acute in our own. But it is clear that we are now before a cultural
para-
dox of massive
proportions: ever-greater
levels and volume of information,
and ever-diminished levels of
credibility.
Collective beliefs have been
fatally
wounded. We need to determine what is the new kind of contact with
reality
(in quotation marks)
that is
gestating
with the new cultures of
complete
visibility.